There’s a lot to say for a good synth melody. After all, modulated arpeggios and computerized squeaks have seen quite a resurgence lately in an unlikely way – absolutely dominating Billboard Chart beat-making following the rise of Lady Gaga.
It’s been a long time coming but synthpop has made a return, at least in a production sense, and Mirrors are certainly relishing the phenomenon. The Brighton four-piece play band-centric electropop in the traditions of former chart-crushers Depeche Mode, OMD and Tears for Fears in the sense that their arty ambitions generally set a heart-touched mood for the dancefloor jams. However their new album Lights And Offerings always makes sure their weepy tendencies stay in check and smartly lets their simmered rave ballads fill out their crowd-pleasing potential.
What Mirrors do with their synthesizers is so good it’s almost a little underwhelming when the vocals come in. The interlocking pulses and thwacked drum machine on opener Fear Of Drowning builds a ridiculously addictive carbonated groove – the same illuminated sprightliness of the best Postal Service songs. And then James starts singing in his foppy self-serious “IS THIS FAR… ENOUGH” tenor. It works; dramatic overextending vocal performances are quite commonplace in the pool they’re drinking from, but the sticky harmonics were fine enough on their own, and the human element simply makes them sound more like a pop group.
His best moment comes three songs deep with Into Her Heart, where he narrates an amniotic cloud of noise with the opening words of a lovers’ dance anthem; it meanders around its ambience for a while, and then with a punctuated “you feel it in the dark on your own” an indisputable waterfall of polished electro-elements descend head-first into the mix. It’s the moment where his voice gels perfectly with the top-tier composition, resulting in a glimmering bit of pop-perfection. But even when the singer and the song are at odds, Mirrors are plenty of fun. The rollicking Kraftwerk-ian design of Ways To An End absolutely demolishes the vocal mix, but frankly the hook is too strong to notice, Write Through The Night has James’ at his most shamelessly dramatic, but those giant stadium drums behind him makes it all worthy.
One of the most impressive things about Lights And Offerings is just how dedicated it is to its craft. Throughout the listen you’d be hard pressed to find a guitar, a rock-leaning tune, or even anything analogue. They aspire to be a synthpop group to its most basic of traditions, but they aren’t necessarily in league with other ’80s revivalists like Cut Copy. It’s clear that Mirrors have a distinct love for the furrowed-brow creativity of this music; the ballads hit with a dense emotive punch, the club bangers sound more epic than euphoric, and by the time the string-swelled, 10-minute closer Secrets ventures back from its middle-part space odyssey and into a gut-busting, bass-synth zonk, it feels like something truly big just happened. Mirrors deserve to sit on pop’s precipice not because of their great hooks, or good looks, but because of their spirit.